Sound off on open heart, tax issues

Gwinnett County is facing two significant issues, and the populace would do well to pay heed to both.

One is the proposal before the County Commission that would raise property taxes. The other is the application for open-heart services by Gwinnett Medical Center.

The tax issue calls for a 25 to 30 percent hike in the millage rates that determine how much you pay in property tax. After two public hearings on the matter, citizens made clear their stand on this possibility: Now is not the time to raise taxes.

With residents struggling in what's been termed the greatest recession since the Great Depression, the added burden of a 25 percent tax increase could be the undoing for many. Keep in mind, however, that our county government is toiling in this same economy. Without increased revenue, some of the services to which you've grown accustomed could diminish or disappear.

But the people's consensus is clear: They prefer a belt-tightening over a tax-heightening.

Hearing the resounding cry from residents, Chairman Charles Bannister said the tax proposal will be tabled Tuesday to give the county more time to cut deeper or find alternative ways to raise revenue. Understand that the county has not taken a tax hike off the table. Even though two of the five commissioners - Mike Beaudreau and Kevin Kenerly - don't support the hike, it's still a possibility.

Don't let your guard down. A final public hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Citizens would do well to attend and put an exclamation point on what they've already told the commission.

For the open-heart surgery issue, those who agree that Gwinnett County would be a better - and safer - place to live with this service can continue to contact their elected officials and voice support for the measure.

The Department of Community Health approved GMC's application to add this critical service. Neighboring hospitals appealed, however, and one hearing officer overturned the department's blessing. That officer, Ellwood Oakley, sided with Emory and Piedmont hospitals, which say open-heart services are not needed in Gwinnett County. The issue now goes back to the DCH.

You can write a letter of appreciation to the DCH, thanking them for their earlier support of GMC's open-heart surgrey program. Write before July 17 to Rhonda Medows, Department of Community Health, 2 Peachtree St., Atlanta GA 30303.

It all has to do with your vantage point. The view from the boardroom of one of the appealing hospitals is a lot different than the view from the back of an ambulance racing from Gwinnett County to an Atlanta facility. Time is of the essence when fighting against cardiac arrest. We want the best care available nearby, not in a neighboring county.

The resolution of both the tax and open-heart debates will greatly affect the quality of life in Gwinnett - your quality of life.

If you care about either or both, your input can make a difference.

J.K. Murphy is the publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.